EU climate change act a missed opportunity for solar, says EPIA

European Heads of State on Friday agreed to set a binding target of 27% for renewable energy in the EU for 2030 – a decision that surprised few and disappointed many.

The binding nature of the renewable energy target at an EU level was welcomed, but the 27% goal was deemed too low by renewable energy advocates in the solar and wind industries. A non-binding energy efficiency target of 27% was also criticized, although the broader pact to cut greenhouse gases by 40% by 2030 was at least seen as a sign of ambition to act on climate change.

The European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) has called the renewables target a "very small step" towards greater solar support, but underlined the fact that solar’s enormous potential in Europe could have been realized with greater EU support.

"It is still an important signal of political resolve to overcome the existing market barriers and the adverse national political contexts where some Member States have implemented retroactive measures for renewables," said EPIA policy director Frauke Thies.

"The ball is now in the court of the new European Commission to build on this minimum target with a meaningful legislative framework and fair market conditions for renewables. Technologies like solar must be able to realize their full competitive potential and keep Europe on track for the much-needed energy transition," Thies added.

Important step

Following Friday’s announcement, assorted EU figureheads lavished praise on the Climate Act outcome, calling the agreement "good news for our fight against climate change" (outgoing European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso) and stating: "we managed to reach a fair decision that sets the EU on an ambitious but cost-effective climate path" (president of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy).

The vague parts of the act were deliberately left open for discussion ahead of next year’s Climate Summit in Paris, when EU leaders expect to face vigorous haggling by some heads of state over certain climate commitments. Leaders of both Poland and the U.K. have expressed doubts over certain binding conditions on carbon reduction, citing economic concerns and matters of sovereignty.

"It is important that you’ve got flexibility over your energy mix," said a spokeswoman for U.K. prime minister David Cameron. Poland, on the other hand, has negotiated discounts to its coal production industry via a complicated set of concessions under the EU’s carbon trading system – a deal the Climate Action Network Europe (CAN Europe) called "scandalous".

"Leaders who came to Brussels to agree new historic climate goals are actually discussing whether to hand out money to Europe’s dirtiest power plants,” said CAN Europe spokeswoman Julia Michalak.